Woollsia pungens


Family: Ericaceae subfamily Epacridoideae

A shrub to 2 metres tall (potentially scrambling up to 3 metres tall through other shrubs).

It has a mostly coastal range in NSW, growing north from Pigeon House Mountains near Batemans Bay, along the coast and coastal inland, to as far west as around Katoomba and Nerriga, along the entire north coast to Fraser Island in Queensland.

It grows in heathland and shrubland as well as dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, on alluvial, transitional sandstone, lateritic-sandstone and coastal dunes.

Woollsia is a mono-specific genus – meaning it has only one species. Hence, foliage and flower characteristics only pertain to this species.

Leaves are crowded on stems, emerging in all directions, ovate to subulate in shape, to 1.2 cm long, to 0.6 cm wide, with the tips long and pointed and with a mucro to 4 mm long, mid to dark green and moderately prickly to touch.

Flowers are produced solitarily amongst and beyond the leaves but appear in clusters due to the clustered nature of leaves, with 5 petals that overlap and with each petal having distinct veins. Flowers have an overall shar-shaped appearance, to 15 mm in diameter, with a fused basal tubular portion to 15 mm long; white (most of the range) to dark pink or purplish (plants around Jervis Bay), typically flowering all year. They are pleasantly odorous.

The fruit is a capsule, about 3 mm in diameter.

In the garden

This species is expanding into cultivation and is proving to be one of the easier species of this family to grow.

Author’s note: In the 1980s this was a plant many APS members would have liked to grow. However, propagation was very hard and hence we never got the opportunity. Looking back, it was through lack of propagation skill, I suspect.

When available, it grows best in a part-shaded spot with good drainage and ample moisture.

It can be grown successfully in a pot if plants can be sourced. Good drainage is essential. Excellent bee attractor and it has odorous flowers.

Species of the Ericaceae subfam. Epacridoideae (i.e. the “epacrids” or “heaths”) have proven notoriously difficult to cultivate, but are highly desired due to their showy flowering displays.


It can be propagated by cuttings or seed

For more details refer to this Australian Flora Foundation link:


Other information

This species regenerates readily from fire through the seedbank although adult plants are usually killed. Plants are thought to live 10–20 years in the wild.

Woollsia is a mono-specific genus – endemic to Australia, occurring in NSW and Queensland only.

Woollsianamed in Honour of William Woolls (30 March 1814 – 14 March 1893), an Australian botanist, clergyman and schoolmaster; by Ferdinand von Mueller in 1875.

pungensLatin meaning with a sharp point, referring to the leaf tips. Alternatively this could refer to the pungent-smell as the flowers exude a sweet clover-like smell in winter.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

NSW Flora online (PlantNET) Woollsia pungens profile page          https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Woollsia~pungens

Wikipedia – Woollsia pungens profile page                                     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woollsia

Plants of South-Eastern Australia – Woollsia pungens profile page https://apps.lucidcentral.org/plants_se_nsw/text/entities/woollsia_pungens.htm

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke